Hoolahan is the latest to discover the Midas touch
Wes Hoolahan joined the ranks of Norwich City’s goalscoring supersubs with his second-half hat-trick against Sheffield United – and further demonstrated manager Paul Lambert’s uncanny knack of making match-winning changes from the bench.
Hoolahan, who scored in the 4-1 home win over Ipswich last month after a late introduction to the contest, made an even more telling contribution with two penalties and a stoppage-time goal, allied to an influential performance, in the 4-2 Championship victory over the Blades on Tuesday.
And though fans will continue to debate whether the 28-year-old Irishman should have been in the starting line-up rather than thrown into the fray at half-time, it was another example of Lambert’s ability to use his extra men to change the course of matches.
The manner in which substitutes turned games in City’s favour was a feature of last season’s League One title success – examples including Cody McDonald’s winner at Walsall, Oli Johnson’s dramatic double against Southend, Stephen Elliott’s two goals at Huddersfield and Chris Martin’s late winner against Leeds.
The pattern has continued in the Championship with Anthony McNamee’s performance inspiring victory over Barnsley and Chris Martin’s arrival helping to spark the fightback in the 2-2 draw against Burnley, and Hoolahan’s decisive treble was another example.
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Evening News columnist and former City winger Neil Adams said Lambert’s decisiveness on the touchline was the key factor.
He said: “Managers fall in two categories – some are cautious and cagey, while others, if they spot something is not right, know that changes need to be made.
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“Paul Lambert is not afraid to change the team or make substitutions at any time if he feels it is in the best interests of the team. It ties in with that desire to try to win every single game.
“There is no cautiousness or caginess. He has publicly stated his aim is to win every game and the players go out with that attitude on match day.
“On Tuesday he changed the formation after 15 or 20 minutes and made his first substitution at half-time. It had a massive effect and he was rewarded for not dallying about, not waiting, but putting Hoolahan on at half-time.
“The way Norwich have scored late goals and turned things round in games is a credit to the management and the players too.”
In his role as the Canaries’ assistant youth team coach, Adams has had plenty of opportunity to assess the value of timely substitutions.
He said: “The game is 90 minutes long and that’s not a long time to me.
“Every minute can be vital so you have to be brave if you realise it is not going your way and take the decision to do something about it. What you really don’t want is to end up wishing you had done something if you had that time again. And don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t come off because at least you have tried. You have given it your best shot.
“The best managers have done that over the years – Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have consistently made substitutions that have changed games.”
Even so, the former Everton and Oldham winger cannot recall seeing a similar feat to Hoolahan’s treble at this level.
“I can’t remember seeing a substitute score a hat-trick, certainly not after playing just 45 minutes of the game,” he said.
“The closest was probably the 1989 FA Cup final when I was with Everton.
“Stuart McCall came off the bench to score twice for Everton, and Ian Rush came on and scored twice for Liverpool.”
The number of substitutes that can be named in Football League matches has gradually risen from one per team in 1965 to seven in 2009, with three allowed to be used since 1995.
• NORWICH CITY’S GOALSCORING SUPERSUBS
• Trevor Howard: The first City substitute to score a goal when he struck the winner at Hull on Boxing Day, 1968. In all, six of Howard’s 19 goals for the Canaries were as a sub, three coming in the 1971-72 promotion campaign.
• Mark Robins: His spectacular debut for City came at Highbury in 1992. On the first day of the new FA Premier League season, substitute Robins helped turn a 2-0 deficit into a 4-2 win over Arsenal, scoring the first of two goals with only his third touch.
• Marc Libbra: Scored the fastest goal by a City substitute, on his debut in a 2-0 win over Manchester City at Carrow Road in 2001. Libbra had been on the pitch 13 seconds when he smashed a volley past Nicky Weaver. In the next League match he came off the bench to score in a 1-0 win over Wimbledon.
• Iwan Roberts: It could have been City’s most profitable substitution of all as Roberts, on for David Nielsen, scored in the second minute of extra time in the Division One play-off final against Birmingham in Cardiff in 2002. But City lost 4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw.
• Phil Mulryne: Mulryne had a happy knack of scoring when he came off the bench in City’s Nationwide League title-winning season of 2003-04. His goals helped turn home games against Derby and Gillingham, and he scored with a cracking volley in the 1-0 win at Reading.
• Oli Johnson: All four of Johnson’s senior goals for the Canaries have been scored after coming off the bench. The striker, who signed from Stockport County last January, made the biggest impact with the late double that clinched a dramatic 2-1 home win over Southend in League One in February.